This is no longer the country of Bob Dylan, but that of Donald Trump.
For four years, I've been regularly traveling to the U.S. I like American people because they are, in general, nice folks. However, every time I land in the U.S., I have to endure a little torture whose only purpose is the exhibition of dominance and power: After leaving the plane, I arrive at immigration control and a police officer examines my passport, my papers, my digital fingerprints, the iris of my eye. He asks some questions; I answer his questions. He asks some more questions; I answer them one more time. At some point, I tell the officer that I write books. He smiles at me. Immediately afterward, he puts my passport in a little-used plastic bag and says, "Follow me." He takes me out of line, leads me through the airport without any explanation, and leaves me standing in a place with no name. I call that place “el cuartelillo” ("the small headquarters"). Antonio Muñoz Molina calls it “la oficina” ("the office"). Those of us who have gone through this have tried to put a name to that place.
The funny thing is that the place doesn't even have a name. The first and the second and the third time I went through this unexplained isolation, I thought that there probably was a reason for it and tried to be patient. Now I know there isn't. At best, they will say that your last name matches that of a "bad man," and that's it. In that unjustified second passport control procedure, the police officer won't do anything that the first one hasn't done already. It's a sad way of entering a country, no matter the country. Sometimes, I meet other people in the cuartelillo. Not long ago, it was a newlywed Spanish couple. They both were afraid. As an expert in this kind of situation, I tried to calm their fears; I told them that, luckily, in half an hour they'd be allowed to enter the country. No one knows how long authorities will keep you. Sometimes, I put my sadness aside, catch my breath and muster up the courage to ask for some sort of explanation. "Since all my documents are in order, tell me why I have been separated from the queue," I ask. "Have I committed any crime? What's the name of this place?" The police expect you to react this way. Then, for asking, you become a troublemaker, and they start to tap on their cuffs with passion. A police officer told me the other day that with a last name like mine, I would always be held. I thought about my last name, and I thought about my father, who gave it to me. Suddenly, a huge policeman, weighing about 300 pounds, said to me in Spanish, "Mejor no venga." ("You better not come.")
The face of a country, of every country, is the face of its immigration police. The impunity with which he said to me "no venga" made me panic; not about myself, but about others who might be less lucky than I am. "This is no longer the country of Bob Dylan, but that of Donald Trump," I said to myself. I put my book in my bag. I had taken it out because I thought I could show it to the border control officer so that he would see I'm a writer and not an enemy of the American people; and I waited for him to do with me as he pleased. He stamped my passport. I entered the country with a feeling of disgust, something I am too old for.